Call her the bracelet lady. Call her compassionate. Call her a survivor.
But call her, because she wants to help.
Beverlee Williams, 57, of Elizabethtown, was diagnosed with cancer in her left breast Feb. 23, 2007, and remembers the day vividly. The news was so devastating, she made some spur-of-the-moment decisions that she still regrets today.
That was in Rocky Mount, N.C., where she and her husband, Rick, lived until moving four years ago to Bartholomew County.
She would have given anything for some good advice back then. Now, she wants to be that friend to anyone with cancer — not just breast cancer — who might think they are alone in such a fight.
Williams, who is on permanent disability, has made a daily job out of making bracelets with beads and distributing them at every opportunity. She makes about 40 a day, which builds her total to about 10,000 since starting the bracelet project.
She sells some to raise money for the American Cancer Society and other causes. Others, she just gives away.
“There’s not a place I don’t go with them,” she said. “I love to talk to people. It touches my soul to be able to hand someone a bracelet to let them know that I do understand.”
Williams remembers her diagnosis, testing and procedures. An abnormality showed up in a mammogram. She had an ultrasound that confirmed cancer was present in her left breast.
Williams collapsed on her bathroom floor, crying. She thought she was going to die. It took encouraging words from family and friends for her to see some hope.
That was before a needle localization biopsy led to a torn rotator cuff, a crushed bicep and tricep and nerve damage in her neck. Doctors would not let her tend to them until after undergoing radiation to rid her body of the cancer.
She still feels pain from her shoulder to her elbow and suspects she always will.
The cancer surgery itself was successful, although Williams wishes she had gotten a double mastectomy instead of a single mastectomy, just to make sure the disease never returns.
“All I knew is that I wanted the cancer out of my body,” she said. “I was never so scared in my whole life. They don’t give you much time to decide what to do, and you aren’t really in a state of mind to give it much rational thought.”
She recalled going to the bank a few months ago and seeing an older woman come in with bright lipstick. The woman turned to her and asked Williams simply to hold her hand, which they did for more than an hour as they talked.
As it turned out, the older woman’s husband was home dying. She needed someone to talk to and just be there for her.
It was a reminder of the staggering number of people affected by cancer, the victims and others who love them.
Williams said her battle with cancer was tough on her but also on her four daughters. They became scared to the point that they have been sure to get mammograms.
That’s a big part of the message that Williams wants to convey: Mammograms are important. So are second opinions so the person and her family know that it’s real.
Williams’ daughter, Tammy Edwards, has been inspired by her mother, although Edwards never has had cancer herself. Edwards’ son, Cody, a football player and senior at Columbus East High School, has been inspired to the point that he has worn pink socks and
pink gloves on the field.
Some of his teammates took up the practice, as well.
Cody’s senior project will be a series of car washes in which he will donate proceeds to the American Cancer Society.
Perhaps the most important thing is for people with cancer to know that they are not alone in their fight, Williams said. Support services are plentiful in Bartholomew County. So are inspirations, if you just know where to look.
Williams, who had the word “survivor” tattooed on her left arm five years after she was diagnosed, sees life differently these days and has a new perspective.
“Work isn’t everything,” Williams said. “You need to take time for yourself and your family and make memories. It’s about getting up every day and seeing the sky and the sun.
“It’s about knowing you’re here.”